Thousands of people marched through Staten Island Saturday to protest the July death of 43-year-old Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, and to call for justice for all victims of police brutality. There were no arrests during the “We Will Not Go Back” rally and march, which was organized by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, backed by a host of labor unions and social justice organizations, and attended by a smattering of politicians, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and former Governor David Patterson.
The lack of violence surely came as a serious disappointment to Fox News, which spent the days leading up to the march solemnly predicting that the whole thing would melt down into a full-scale race war.
Demonstrators chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe!” as they marched towards the Staten Island District Attorney’s office. Garner’s family was in attendance, as were the families of Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, and Sean Bell, all killed by NYPD officers.
In the days leading up to the march, Fox News, as well as the New York Post , repeatedly referred to the march as an “anti-police rally.” In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, said Sharpton’s aim was to “stir the streets.”
The day before the march, Fox Business dredged up former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, barely heard from since his unsuccessful 2010 campaign, to warn that Staten Island businesses would all shut down for the day because, as he put it, “somebody might throw a rock through your window if it turns into a riot.”
In another segment on Fox & Friends the same day, the hosts brought on Pastor Robert Jeffress, the leader of a Dallas mega-church who’s best known for his frequent anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements, and for his repeated proclamations that President Obama is “paving the way for the anti-Christ.”
Who better to discuss police brutality? Jeffress declared that Sharpton is “prostituting his pastoral position by using the unrest in Ferguson to further his own agenda.” He added that according to the Bible, law enforcement officers are “ministers of God, sent to avenge evildoers. That doesn’t mean police officers always get it right. There are rogue police officers, like there are rogue pastors and newscasters. But the majority of policemen are selfless servants.”
If anything, though, the march was criticized by anti-police brutality activists for being too conciliatory towards the NYPD. One major labor union that participated, 1199 SEIU, which represents healthcare workers, carried signs in support of the NYPD as well as ones calling for justice for victims of police violence.
After the marchers failed to turn the whole of Staten Island into a pile of smoking embers, Fox did their best to point out that it could have.
“This rally in Staten Island, fortunately, by the reports that we have, was non-violent,” declared a Fox & Friends host whose name we’re not even going to pretend to know. “But very often aggression does follow Al Sharpton.”
You have to admire their determination.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2014